The Low End Mac Mailbag

OS X on a 6500, a Macquarium, and the Debate over G3 Support in Mac OS X 10.5 'Leopard'

Dan Knight - 2007.05.09

Low End Mac readers run the gamut. One wants to get OS X running on a completely unsupported Power Mac 6500. Others are debating whether Apple should continue to support G3 Macs when OS X 10.5 "Leopard" ships later this year - and whether it would make sense to run it on a G3 if Apple does offer it. - Tip Jar

The G3 Support in Leopard Letters

Getting OS X Running on a Power Mac 6500

In response to Advice about Joseph Burke's 6500 Upgrade, Joseph Burke writes:

Yes, I know it will probably impossible or at least very very difficult [to run OS X on a Power Mac 6500]. I am hoping to at least get the G3 PCI card to be recognized by changing the Gestalt ID and using Wish I Were to fool the Sonnet installer into thinking it's running on a 7200. That is going to be the first big hurdle.

The second hurdle is going to be seeing if it recognizes the extra memory on the G3 board or not. If it does, that would give me a max of 384 MB on the G3 board plus 128 MB on the motherboard for 512 MB, enough to run Tiger.

Then, after all that, I have to get XPostFacto to believe it's running on a machine that it supports. I am thinking that since the 7200 is basically the same as the 7300/7500/7600 except for the way the CPU is mounted, that maybe the Sonnet will still work if I can make it believe it is installed in a 7500 instead of a 7200.

I know it's terribly complicated and probably won't work, but the Sonnet upgrade was only $29.95, Wish I Were and XPostFacto are free, and I already have the Tiger CDs, so it really isn't costing anything to try.

Oh, and the three-slot PCI board from Power Computing that I bought does not work in the 6500. The slot it fits into is not a PCI slot like on the 6500 motherboard. It looks more like the edge of the 6100/7100/8100 HPV video card connector. There is probably a generic PCI riser out there somewhere that will work; I just have to find it.


Good luck - and keep us posted!


Where to Find BeOS for the Mac

Following up on Advice about Joseph Burke's 6500 Upgrade, VRic writes:

Any tips on where someone might find a copy of BeOS for Macintosh these days?

Versions 4.5 and 5.03 Pro appear on eBay from time to time, but newer versions and clones may be available from various projects that spawned after Be's demise. Of those, Zeta was recently killed by the Evil Lawyer of Death, BeOS Developer Edition doesn't target PPC platforms, but Haiku remains and promises a PPC port someday. Current applications may target x86 only, though.

The community is still active, so you will easily find someone better informed than me (especially if you speak French, German, or Japanese, apparently :-).

CRT Shock Danger Overstated

Tom Lee writes:

Hi Dan,

Drew Page's speculation [CRT Danger Explains Difficulty Getting into eMac, G3 iMacs] that CRT-based iMacs and eMacs are so hard to get into for safety/liability concerns may be partly correct, but isn't the real reason. Just as with the first generation of Macs, the philosophy of minimizing mods by users is the true underlying reason. There are plenty of desktop Macs with hard-to-open cases, for example, and these have no high voltage things in sight.

And the final point is that the high voltage stored in CRTs might be scary, but not particularly dangerous. People hear "XY kilovolts" and they think "instant vaporization." But the energy stored in an unpowered Mac's CRT is not that high. Besides, you can't get a shock from a casual touch - all the dangerous bits are exceptionally well insulated, so you have to be actively looking for trouble to get some. Too much fear-mongering about this has been spread by well-meaning folks, resulting in a lot of Macs that don't get fixed out of irrational worries.


Prof. Thomas H. Lee
Stanford University

Another Macquarium

Bob Clark of Clarkwood Software writes:

Hi Dan.

I've appreciated your site for years; indeed, Low End Mac's links to Peek-a-Boo and ramBunctious back in the OS 9 days accounted for a significant percentage of our traffic and paying customers.

Recently I've found some useful content on your Macquaria page. I just finished a Macquarium myself and comparing with others' experiences was helpful.

My write-up is at <>

- Bob

Hi Bob,

Thanks for sharing your Macquarium. I'll add it to our Macquarium page - and take the opportunity to get rid of one or two bad links, add a couple more. It's kind of neat being the top page in Google when you search for "macquarium" (not counting Macquarium the ISP).

ramBunctious (reviewed in 2002) was an awesome piece of software. I used to keep my LEM files in a RAM disk backed up to a Zip disk in the old days. Talk about fast! I'm glad we were able to help make ramBunctious successful for you.


The G3 Support in Leopard Letters

Apple's 350 MHz iMacs 'for Cheapskates'

Tim Harness writes:

Thanks for paying attention to the question of G3 support in Leopard, there is a small nit to pick, Apple offered the slot-loading iMac without FireWire for cheapskates. Apple will probably say that they shouldn't be asked to support old hardware, but they shouldn't be in such a rush to have their older hardware showing up at garage sales. Be well, have fun, or a reasonable facsimile of it, Tim.


While the 350 MHz blueberry (US$999) and indigo iMacs (US$799) don't have FireWire, their motherboards are in all other respects the same as their more expensive siblings. The only differences are CPU speed, the absence of FireWire support, and a CD-ROM drive instead of DVD-ROM. According to field reports, Tiger installs and works just fine on these machines.


Draw the Line at 700 MHz

Brian says:

Mr. Knight,

I applaud Mr. Finkenbinder's support of G3 support for Leopard. However, I see no reason for Apple to support anything less than a 700 MHz G3 system.

My question is, even if Apple did give support for my Pismo PowerBook, would it really be worth it? I spend $129 to run a new version of Mail? That would be my poor decision. I have Panther [OS X 10.3] installed, and that works best.

There's no reason for me to use Tiger, even though I have it. It would, in my opinion, lower the usefulness of my machine 50% with only maybe 15% benefit. With Leopard, I could see that percentage going much, much higher.

...whatever computer you own, you should run the best operating system for it.

The fact is that with whatever computer you own, you should run the best operating system for it. The Pismo, for example, runs 9.0, 9.1, 9.2.2, 10.1, 10.2, 10.3, & 10.4. That's 7 different choices of OS!

I think Mr. Finkenbinder needs to remember that Macs are useful for years beyond their last best OS. The only thing Leopard will do for me is put a hole in my wallet and make my computer slow. I'll just stick with what works.


PS: My main computer is a 1st Generation G5 iMac. The Pismo is my wife's computer that we both use to use wireless at hot spots. An interesting fact: I installed iLife 05 on it, even GarageBand, which is supposed to require a 600 MHz G3 and 512 of RAM. It works just fine (just a little slower)!


Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I tend to agree with you on the best OS for your Pismo. I had a PowerBook G4/400 for over five years, and it was definitely slower once I installed Tiger. Panther is probably the best OS for Lombard, Pismo, early G4 PowerBooks, and all G3 iBooks. And most G3 iMacs plus the blue & white G3 Power Mac.

As for cutting off support at 700 MHz, that would rule out every G3 iMac except for the fastest version of the very last revision (summer 2001) as well as half of the Dual USB G3 iBooks (they hit 700 MHz in May 2002). I don't think Apple is ready to abandon 5-year-old Macs - but we'll know more later this year.

Apple really pulled a Microsoft with Tiger, as it was the first version of OS X that offered lower performance than earlier ones. I suspect this will be true of all future versions due to feature bloat.


Leopard a Bad Investment on G3 Macs

Doug Petrosky writes:

There are points of diminishing returns, and I'm sorry, but most people who wait 5-7 years before upgrading systems also don't have a strong need (or oftentimes even benefit from) for the latest OS release. It is not like these releases are free! You are looking at $129 cost if your 5-year-old system has the RAM and HD space to even effectively load the OS.

From Apple's perspective, pulling support means reduced Q/A and tighter cleaner code base, as well as real world performance gains if they can count on features (AltiVec, Quartz Extreme, and others) in the newer systems.

The advocate said that $180 for an upgrade CPU was much cheaper than $699 price of a mini. But $180 + $129 OS upgrade + $79 for iLife puts you at $400 and a stones throw from the Mac mini - or better yet, a refurb or previous gen Mac mini (wait for the Mac OS up to date program)

When the entry level of the Mac market was $2,000, there was a certain length of time you should expect a system to be fully supported. As that price dropped to $1,299, so did the duration that the system had to be viable. Now with systems selling for $600, that duration drops yet again.

I would say that if 10.6 shows up in 2009, PPC support will be there, but if it is pushed into late 2010 and systems have fallen yet again in overall price that it is possible that 10.6 could drop support.

Bottom line: In most cases it would be a bad investment to spend $129 to upgrade a G3 Mac to 10.5. So it is not worth much extra effort on Apple to test and support it.

Doug Petrosky


You raise a good point. A nice used G3 iMac might cost $100-150, a pair of 512 MB DIMMs $110, and OS X $129. Let's call it $350, assuming the user wants Leopard but doesn't need iLife. What do you have? A 15" display that tops out at 1024 x 768, a pokey 20-30 GB hard drive, DVD-ROM or CD-RW (Apple never offered a Combo drive), an little or no Quartz Extreme support.

Frankly, I think most G3 iMac owners would be happier with OS X 10.3, and the only compelling reason to go with 10.4 would be needing an application that requires it. Likewise, the only justification for putting Leopard on a G3 Mac would be Leopard-only apps.

And that's the key to Kris Finkenbinder's argument: If you want to use the latest version of Safari, Mail, etc., it's invariably tied to the latest version of the Mac OS. Those who haven't upgraded to 10.4 are already left behind with several iApps, and the same thing will happen with Leopard.

Another factor is the "enough" factor. A lot of Mac users - especially among those who regularly visit Low End Mac - are pretty much satisfied with what they have. We have enough computer for what we do all or most of the time. If that's a G3 Mac, we'd like to be able to use the latest version of Safari, Mail, etc. even if it means $129 for a copy of Leopard.

Finally, there's the hand-me-down Mac user. Passing along an old G3 iMac often means spending some time now and then providing support, and the longer we use a new version of the OS, the more rusty we get working with the older ones. If Grandma can run Leopard on the 600 MHz G3 iMac and I'm running it on a new Macintel model, support is going to be a lot easier.

There are many practical considerations, and I'd hate to see Apple make it impossible for me to put Leopard on the more recent G3 Macs.


Completely Flawed Logic

Joseph Burke says:

I can't believe what I just read. I found the article about why Apple needs to support the G3 in Leopard, and I find the writers logic completely flawed. First of all, the beige G3 machines - and any machine prior to that with a CPU upgrade - is already officially unsupported. The only G3 machines still supported are the Blue and White, the slot loading iMac, and a few iBook models.

Why is he screaming so loudly over the obsolescence of these machines? Did we hear this much of an outcry when Mac OS 7.6 obsoleted the 68000 Macs? Did we hear it again when Mac OS 8.5 obsoleted everything else prior to the first generation Power Macs? There were still 68040 machines that were only 5 or 6 years old when 8.5 came around, the same situation we will have if Leopard drops the G3.

Secondly, sooner or later all PowerPC-based Macs are going to lose support as Apple continues to optimize for the Core Duo and Quad Intels in the same way that they continued to optimize for PowerPC from 7.6-8.5. It only stands to reason that the oldest and slowest models will lose support before more recent models.

Without the hardware acceleration provided by a Core Image capable GPU, older Macs will continue to run slower and slower as graphics based technologies continue to advance....

Something else we need to consider is Core Image compatibility. Core Image allows a developer to code intense graphics using the GPU of a fast graphics card. No onboard video or officially supported PCI solution available for G3 machines supports Core Image anyway, and Core Image is going to be a very important technology going forward (unlike Quartz Extreme, as was pointed out can be easily lived without) and any computer that is incapable of supporting it will (and rightly should) be left behind. Without the hardware acceleration provided by a Core Image capable GPU, older Macs will continue to run slower and slower as graphics based technologies continue to advance until they stop running altogether. This includes the PCI G4 machines, as well, since all officially supported Core Image capable cards require at least a reasonable fast AGP video card.

I also think it was quite unreasonable of the author to expect that software companies are going to continue to compile for PowerPC indefinitely. In a few more years this is all going to be a moot point because the G4, and maybe even the G5, will also be unsupported by then.

Another point, given that all PowerPC support is going to vanish in a few years, anyway, it makes no sense to continue performing surgery on older Macs in a vain attempt to keep up with the newest ones because the software just won't be there to run on old hardware, unless the community is more active in writing up to date applications to support the PowerPC architecture. Buying an Intel Mac mini or iMac is indeed a cheaper alternative given those conditions simply because going forward new software and hardware technologies and innovative applications won't be available for PowerPC machines at any price.

Someone once said "What is best done, is best done quickly", and it is best that G3 support is dropped now.

PS, In the article, the writer states that Vista will run on any PC going back at least 10 years. Tell him to look at the specs on the Vista box and ask him if it includes the 233 MHz Pentium MMX, because that is where the Intel world was 10 years ago. Ask him if any 10-year-old video card is DX 9 or DX 10 capable. Ask him if any 10-year-old PC has at least 512 MB of RAM or can even be upgraded to it. Ask him how many people had DVD-ROM drives 10 years ago, which is also a requirement of Vista, and how many people had hard drives measured in gigabytes instead of megabytes. In short, there is not a single PC from 10 years ago that will run Vista at all.


Yes, it does stand to reason that the oldest and slowest Macs will no longer be officially supported in future versions of Mac OS X. The question is how long will Apple officially support a model - and how long will a model be able to run the latest version of OS X using a hack such as XPostFacto.

While Apple doesn't officially support Tiger on WallStreet PowerBooks or beige G3s, except for the lack of installer support OS X 10.4 will run on them. The question is which Macs will be able to run Leopard using an alternate installer.

I'm sure that Core Image is going to be a great technology going forward, but there are a lot of G4 Macs that don't support it. Among PowerPC models, only the 2005 version of the eMac, 1.25 GHz and faster iMacs, 1 GHz and faster aluminum PowerBooks, and G5 Power Macs support it. The G4 Mac mini doesn't. The 1 GHz 15" iMac G4 from 2005 doesn't. I think it's premature to consider Core Image support a valid cutoff point.

Apple serves a wide audience. There are the power users, who always want current hardware and the latest version of the Mac OS. There are casual users who are satisfied with what they bought and may never buy an OS update. There are Mac lovers who like to find the best OS for their older Macs, whether that's System 6 on a Mac IIfx, 8.1 on a PowerBook 1400, or 10.3 on a Pismo PowerBook.

It's a question of options. Some people want the option of running the latest version of OS X on their older Macs even if performance suffers somewhat. They want it so they can run Tiger-only or (soon) Leopard-only apps. They're pretty satisfied with their current hardware, and they don't want to have to buy a new Mac just so they can use Spotlight, widgets, or whatever compelling new features of Leopard draw them in.

Apple has a great track record in supporting older Macs with newer versions of OS X, both officially and unofficially. If they at some point compile OS X so that it cannot run on any G3 Mac, a good segment of low-end Mac users is going to feel betrayed. If they slowly phase out official support while making it possible for OS X to continue to run on unsupported Macs, they will be happy. And Apple will sell more copies of Leopard.

Apple has generally moved forward at a reasonable pace, and I think it's unreasonable to phase out any and all G3 support in 2007. Time will tell.


Finkenbinder's Call for G3 Support

Per Grenerfors says:

Hi Dan,

While I didn't have the patience to read exactly all of the email correspondence between you and Kris, I couldn't help but to notice that both of you fail to mention that 10.5 will be a Universal Binary. This is the big cat. It's bigger than Tiger and Panther, and there's a lot going on under the hood. Maybe the task of creating that Universal Binary system is too big to include support for G3s. Since it has to run smoothly on both PPC and Intel, the line has to be drawn somewhere. I actually like the way Apple draws the line. It's easy to understand. It was easy for most people to see if their Macs had FireWire ports. It will be easy for people to check if they have a G4 under the hood. Checking the amount of VRAM, screen resolution - nah, that's just a lot of hassle. Leave that to people upgrading to Vista.

BTW, hardly a week goes by without checking up on old Mac specs or reading up on OS 9 stuff on LEM. Keep up the good work, your site is a true gem!

Best wishes,

Thanks for the kind words, Per.

We're firmly committed to the low end, and that's part of the reason we hope Apple will officially support some G3 Macs in Leopard.

In terms of hardware, there's only one big difference between G3 and G4 CPUs: AltiVec. To date, Apple has been able to make OS X run on both G3 and G4 systems by not requiring AltiVec. I hope they will continue to do that with Leopard, and I doubt that continuing to support CPUs with and without AltiVec would make Leopard significantly larger or more difficult to code. Apple has already crossed that bridge.

We'll know soon enough where Apple draws the line....


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Dan Knight has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. Mailbag columns come from email responses to his Mac Musings, Mac Daniel, Online Tech Journal, and other columns on the site.

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